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October 27, 2011
Carolina began this turbulent season 5-1.
Now the Tar Heels must find a way to finish these last four games at least 3-1.
UNC, of course, is hoping for even more.
"We can't lose to Wake," said wide receiver Jheranie Boyd, who caught two touchdown passes against Clemson. "Every game from now on is big to us.
"We have to win the rest of these games to finish 9-3 and go to a good bowl game."
The place to start is to cease self-destructing. The Tar Heels won a game after committing five turnovers earlier this season. It's too much to hope to do that more than once, particularly when it was six turnovers against an offense as potent as Clemson's last Saturday.
Interim head coach Everett Withers is probably right when he says the Tar Heels have enough talent to beat anyone in the conference.
"I think the main thing is just taking care of the ball," Withers said. "I think if we take care of the ball, we can be as good as any team in this conference -- if we take care of the ball.
"We have what we think is a good run game and that helps our quarterback in the pass game. If we can keep the ball, we don't have to play as many snaps on defense. It helps our young secondary on defense."
While this may all be true, there comes a time when a team either corrects its mistakes or watches its season slip away. UNC is now officially walking that fine line.
First-year starting quarterback was responsible for four of those turnovers against the Tigers. If one looks fairly at how Renner has played this year, however, it's obvious he is an exceptionally talented QB.
He's thrown 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He leads the ACC in passing efficiency with a 166.4 ranking.
He will become more consistent as he matures, but with any quarterback of his potential there are going to be days when he throws some interceptions. His accuracy and daring will lead to occasional mistakes.
"Three interceptions and a fumble are unacceptable," Renner said. "I need to make quicker reads and learn from some of the mistakes I've made.
"It happens sometimes," Renner said. "It happens to every quarterback in the country. You always try to play perfect, but it's not going to happen. People make good plays and things happen in the course of a game. It's all about how you respond."
Unfortunately, every week Withers talks about running the ball and keeping his defense off the field and every week Renner throws more passes than UNC attempts rushes.
Do not roll out the excuse of falling behind against Miami or Clemson, either. Rushing the ball successfully requires a commitment, even when the urge to panic and throw creeps into the equation.
If the Tar Heels do not want to see Wake Forest's spread offense on the field too much, they had better run the ball and run it often. And for goodness sakes, do not go into a passing formation when the opportunity for play-action arises. Renner has not gotten enough help in this area. If you are going to pass on third-and-1, line up in the I-formation and let Renner make a strong fake before dropping back to throw.
The season is on the line for the coaches and the players, starting at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday against the Deacons.
The beauty of sports is the field of play tells no lies. We will know what kind of football team UNC has after these final four games. As Bill Parcells says, you are what your record is.